Following the outburst of Covid-19, and the drastic halt to the tourism industry, we have started to notice a change around how people want to travel.
Compared to a few years ago, travellers are starting to show increased preference towards eco-conscious, adventurous and unique travel experiences over “cliche” destinations.
Rather than visiting the same popular attractions as everyone else, some travellers are ditching the normalcy of modern hotels for a more genuine and real adventure.
If you’re planning to travel to Africa, but want to have an authentic African experience away from overbearing crowds, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’re going to be sharing 7 reasons why you should consider staying with locals in Africa, rather than a standard city hotel.
We’ll also introduce you to some of our traveller friends who run an authentic African family farm experience in Zimbabwe. That way you can learn a bit more about their story and what they offer their guests.
But first, let’s explore why an authentic African adventure neats staying in a traditional hotel.
7 Reasons Travellers Should Stay at an African Family Farm
These days, travel has become less about taking pictures of famous monuments and staying in flashy hotel rooms, and more about stepping outside of one’s comfort zone to have new adventures.
In Africa, seeking more authentic experiences and adventures can provide travellers with a truer understanding of the country, its beauty, its culture and also its people.
Staying at an African family farm is a great way to do this, because in most cases, they’re run by local families who simply love to showcase their country and share their heritage with others.
Alongside this, you will also get to:
1. Meet the Locals and See the Country Through Their Eyes
One of the greatest benefits of staying with locals in Africa is that you get to meet new people and make friends across the globe.
By staying with locals (for example, within an African family farm), you will be welcomed into a new environment, completely different to your comforts back home.
You will also stay with your host and be able to fully immerse yourself within their daily life – whether it be by meeting their friends and family, or simply witnessing different cultural norms.
Staying with locals in Africa is one of the best ways to learn about the culture and what it’s like to really live in their country.
In addition to meeting new people, most locals are incredibly proud of their country and willing to share their experience living in the area.
This provides a great opportunity to see the country or town through their eyes, rather than simply visiting the same attractions as every other traveller.
They can also alert you of unsafe places to avoid and/or their favourite things to do, which can be really insightful – especially if travelling on your own.
2. Build Local Knowledge and Experience
By living with local communities in Africa, you get to build knowledge and understanding of their local culture and language.
After all, what better way to learn a new language than throwing yourself completely into the experience… even if you can only grasp a few words!
By staying within a local community, you’ll get to hear how they speak, how they pronounce words and will have many opportunities to practise your skills.
In my opinion, there’s nothing more rewarding than being able to speak to people in their local language.
I also find that locals LOVE and appreciate you so much more when you at least TRY to speak their language – even if they chuckle at your attempts along the way!
Alongside language, locals can also provide great insider tips and information on things that only a local would know, such as:
The best times to buy food from the local farmers’ market
The best places to eat out and/or street food you must try
Discounted entry to attractions at certain times or days
3. Share Different Cultures
Another benefit of staying within a local African farm is that you get toshare different life experiences and stories from your home countries.
You can even show them pictures of your life back home or places you’ve visited throughout your travels.
In addition to sharing life stories, you may even get the opportunity to learn about their cuisine and how to cook a traditional dish – a mouth-watering experience that provides so much insight into what makes the country what it is.
Staying with locals really helps you to build understanding of a place and compassion for how the people live.
You just can’t find genuine moments like this when staying in a hotel.
4. Witness More Than the “Touristy” Sites
By focusing on having authentic African experiences, rather than seeing only the “touristy” sites, you will have a richer experience with the country and its people.
You will also have a better chance of escaping the common “tourist traps” and crowds that gather at the top attractions.
Now, keep in mind:
I’m not saying to avoid all of the popular attractions in a destination, but to simply complement these types of experiences with more unique and lesser-known ones.
By staying at a local’s place, you can explore the area in a more authentic way.
5. Support the Local Economy and Environment
The impacts of Covid-19 on the tourism industry were huge, and widespread all over the world.
Not only did the lockdowns devastate many travel or adventure-related businesses, but the delay in people travelling due to fear of getting “stuck” overseas was of large consequence.
That’s why I’m passionate about supporting the little guys; the small businesses run by locals.
By staying at an African family farm, you will feel warm and fuzzy knowing that you’re having a positive impact on the community and giving back to those who really need the support.
However, if you are already planning to stay in a different type of accommodation, there are many other ways you can give back too.
For example, you can:
Support locally-run product markets rather than large multinational supermarket chains
Buy local ingredients for your meals rather than imported options
Support smaller family-run tour companies
Volunteer in the community
Be a more environmentally-conscious traveller (eg. do eco-friendly tours, try to limit your use of plastics, etc)
Doing any of these things can help to stimulate the local community and have a positive impact on the environment.
6. A Great Option for Budget-minded or Adventurous Travellers
According to Talk Talk Bnb, staying with locals can be a great way for travellers to save money on their trip– especially as an alternative to expensive hotels.
Especially given some homestay experiences include essential meals (eg. breakfast and dinner) alongside accommodation. This can enable you to put your money towards other things like tours and experiences.
Mpala Guest and Adventure Farm is a perfect example of this (I’ll share more about their farm below).
Personally, I found couch surfing(staying at a local’s place for free) to be a great way to save $$$ when on the road too.
BUT, it’s incredibly important to do your research and diligently read reviews of your hosts.
I did this mostly in Europe though, so I’m not sure I’d recommend it for Africa.
7. Have More Fun!
The greatest benefit of all ….staying with locals can be incredibly fun!
You get to meet some of the town’s top personalities and join in on local activities – which is especially great when travelling on your own.
How to Find and Stay at an Authentic African Family Farm
If you’re keen to learn more or book an authentic African experience, Mpala Guest and Adventure Farm is a cool option to check out.
Mpala Guest and Adventure Farm is the place where adventure meets a unique and authentic farm experience in Zimbabwe, Africa.
I must admit, I haven’t personally stayed here, but was introduced to Kate (the co-owner of the farm) recently and was blown away by her story.
The Story Behind Mpala Guest and Adventure Farm
After experiencing the sudden loss of he fiancé in 2019, Kate travelled to Africa to find solace and to heal from the grief and deep loss she felt following the incident.
At that point in her life, she felt an intense need to do things differently.
She wanted to experience today what others talk about doing in the future and live without regret, so decided to go travelling to visit the hometown of her partner and spend time with his family.
She also planned to do some volunteer work throughout her trip in Kenya, South Africa, Ghana and Zimbabwe.
Through helping others and giving back to the community, Kate was able to rediscover her identity, her inner strength and feel a greater sense of belonging.
She also coincidentally crossed paths with her current partner, Elvis, meeting him whilst travelling on a flight to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
Since then, Elvis and Kate have worked together to build their dream – a place where travellers can create memories of a lifetime and have authentic African experiences, without breaking the bank.
For Elvis, opening Mpala Guest and Adventure Farm was also a soulful way to honour his mum, his heritage and the key values instilled within him as a child – curiosity, hard work and pride.
He is also an avid white water rafter with over 20 years’ of experience, and operates his own rafting company in Zimbabwe called Try Rafting Co.
Elvis loves to share his passion for adventure with his guests by running rafting tours through the magnificent towering gorges of the Zambezi River.
Authentic African Adventures at Mpala Guest and Adventure Farm
By staying at Mpala Guest and Adventure Farm you will be welcomed into the community as part of the Mpala family, able to experience the beautiful Zimbabwean countryside from a local’s perspective.
You’ll get to stay in one of their small guest chalets within the Chisuma Village, which are designed to make your visit unique, comfortable and fun.
You’ll also get to experience traditional African food made from local ingredients, most of which has been freshly harvested, prepared and cooked on site.
You can rest assured that every part of your meal is organic, fresh and oozing with natural flavour.
If you’re an animal lover like me, you will also enjoy greeting the many farm animals on site including traditional cows, goats, chickens, the resident goat, Lucky, and their adventurous dog, Sponge.
If you’re keen to explore some of the other sights and attractions of Zimbabwe, Elvis and Kate can help you organise a variety of activities including:
Helicopter rides over Victoria Falls
Beautiful hiking to the gorge and waterfalls
The Boma dinner and drum show
If you’re after an authentic African experience in Zimbabwe, Mpala Guest and Adventure Farm could be the perfect place for you to stay.
Authentic African Experiences | 7 Top Reasons Travellers Should Stay at an African Family Farm
I hope that this article has helped to provide greater context around why staying with locals can provide a more authentic experience versus staying in a hotel room.
In Africa, staying at a local family-run farm can be one of the best ways to learn about a community and their culture, taste fresh produce and local cuisine, and meet new people from across the world.
Mpala Guest and Adventure Farm is a great option to check out if you’re someone who loves adventure, stepping outside your comfort zone and want an African adventure with locals.
If you’d like to learn more about Mpala Guest and Adventure Farm, you can visit their website here.